Wrapping Up the Week

Wrapping Up the Week

It’s been another interesting week in the world of tech. This week has seen Apple achieve some significant victories and losses as things heat up for the holiday season. There have been new bug-fixes for iOS as well as a patent drubbing in court and Microsoft deciding to start the holidays with the spirit of mockery for Apple. In addition to these normal travails in the tech wars, there have been many stories about the best gadgets and games to get for the geek in your life this holiday season.

All of these stories and more were featured on our Twitter feed. However, if you’re not following us on Twitter, we’ll recap the highlights for you below.

That’s all for this week, folks! Have a great weekend and see you again next week.

Throwback Thursday: The First Doctor (Doctor Who)

Throwback Thursday: The First Doctor (Doctor Who)

It’s a bit of an adage in the Whovian world that “you never forget your first Doctor.” Usually this means that you’ll always remember (and probably have an overly-strong attachment to) the incarnation of the Doctor whom you see the first time you watch Doctor Who. And, with the show being the longest running series in history (fifty-one years and counting), there are twelve incarnations to choose from. However, the person who made Doctor Who possible and who first brought the Doctor to life fifty-one years ago this coming Sunday deserves a very special mention in Who History which is why today, for Throwback Thursday, we’re looking at the very first Doctor played by William Hartnell.

The First Doctor was the one who set the tone for all the future regenerations. He began his adventures through time and space as an old man, a Time Lord who had grown into his elder years naturally. With his granddaughter Susan, the Doctor stole a TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space) and escaped from Gallifrey. Along the way, he picked up several companions beginning with Ian and Barbara, two of Susan’s teachers on Earth. He got accidentally engaged to an Aztec woman named Carmica, was the first to encounter the Daleks and the Cybermen (two villains who play a major role in Who History), and was also the first to regenerate.

The First Doctor was a crotchy, irascible old man who could be by turns arrogant and childlike. He was full of wonder about the universe but wanted to be in control of everything. He also had a habit of getting tongue-tied, something that was used to cover up the fact that Harntell suffered from arteriosclerosis which made it difficult for him to remember his lines.

Doctor Who was one of the first television series where female characters were treated as equal to the male characters. The show has always been a bit of a trailblazer, looking to the future and honoring the past. The actors who have portrayed the Doctor over the past half century have been a diverse lot. However, Harntell, the man who started it all, has a special place in Who History for anyone who enjoys this quirky British sci-fi show.

Wednesday Recipes: Turkey Time!

Thanksgiving is just eight days away and that means it’s time to get serious about preparing. If you haven’t picked out your bird yet, you might want to go and do that before this weekend. Also, if you’ve got your side items selected or, if like many others, you’re doing potluck, then once you have your big, beautiful turkey, there is only one decision left to make:

Do you want to fry it or roast it?

Please be advised that if you decide to fry it, you will still need to thaw it, first. Some friends and I made this mistake in college once we discovered we had forgotten to take the turkey out of the freezer the night before. Figuring that frying it would cause it to thaw (and that the melting water would keep it from drying out), we heated the deep fryer up to Ridiculous Heat and let the iceball bird dive in. It remained in the hot oil for about ten seconds before the ice flashed to steam and the normally-flightless turkey took to the air in a ballistic arc, landing in the nearby swimming pool.

Also, if you do decide to go with frying, please be careful with the hot oil! Don’t overheat it, avoid splashing it when you put the turkey in, and don’t overfill the basin.

Regardless of whether you fry or roast this year, we’ve got a recipe for you!

Erick’s Deep Fried Rosemary Turkey

1 (12 pound) whole turkey, neck and giblets removed
1/2 cup minced garlic
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
3 gallons peanut oil for frying
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
12 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup chopped fresh ginger root

Fill an outdoor deep-fryer with the peanut oil (see tip below), and heat to 325 degrees F (160 degrees C). This will take about 30 minutes.

Rub the turkey with minced garlic, salt and pepper on the inside and outside. Fill the cavity with rosemary, garlic cloves and ginger. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to marinate.

Remove the herbs and garlic from the cavity of the bird, and discard. Make sure the opening at the neck of the turkey is at least 2 inches wide. Trim skin back if necessary. This will prevent pressure from building inside. If the turkey has a pop-up doneness indicator, it must be removed beforehand.

Place the turkey in the fryer basket, or hanging device, and slowly lower it into the hot oil. Be sure to maintain the temperature of the oil while it is frying. Cook for 3 1/2 minutes per pound, or until the internal temperature is at 180 degrees F (82 degrees C) when taken in the thickest part of the thigh.

Carefully remove the turkey from the hot oil, and turn off the deep-fryer. Let the bird cool for 5 minutes, then pat dry.

Perfect Roast Turkey

1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 fresh turkey (10 to 12 pounds)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch fresh thyme
1 whole lemon, halved
1 Spanish onion, quartered
1 head garlic, halved crosswise

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add the zest and juice of the lemon and 1 teaspoon of thyme leaves to the butter mixture. Set aside.

Take the giblets out of the turkey and wash the turkey inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pinfeathers and pat the outside dry. Place the turkey in a large roasting pan. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the turkey cavity. Stuff the cavity with the bunch of thyme, halved lemon, quartered onion, and the garlic. Brush the outside of the turkey with the butter mixture and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the turkey.

Roast the turkey about 2 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between the leg and the thigh. Remove the turkey to a cutting board and cover with aluminum foil; let rest for 20 minutes.

Slice the turkey and serve.

Tech Talk Tuesday: Go Go Robo Vac!

Tech Talk Tuesday: Go Go Robo Vac!

In recent years, robotic vacuum cleaners have officially become a “thing.” Their earliest incarnations were slow, power-hungry, got easily confused due to the primitive AI and sensors, and didn’t really clean as effectively as, say, a ShopVac. However, their appeal wasn’t so much for the practical-minded neat-freak who wanted to make certain that the carpets were clean enough to eat off of. No, their appeal was to the geek crowd who immediately took to cracking them open, reprogramming them, and then recording the hijinks.

Robot vacuums not only make for great beginner-level killer robots — they are wonderful ways to entertain young children and pets. And — they clean the floor. Literally.

With a little bit of tinkering and programming know-how, you can turn them into more than just floor vacs. Though this article is specific to Roomba, any robot vacuum can be altered to do amazing things. They can be made to battle to the death. Or to let you play the most awesome 3D version of PacMan ever. They can even be modified to act like regular vacuums but without the heaviness or the backbreaking shoving the unit around — just use a Kinect and you can control your vacuum without ever having to touch it!

Some other great ideas include: playing pong, Robo Vacuum Chess, Robo Vacuum small dog walkers (after all, a German Shepherd can just ignore anything weaker than the average adult Homo sapiens), and Robo Vacuum Burglar Trappers.

The last one needs a bit of elaboration. Imagine a pair (or more) of robo vacuums with extendible vertical arms. Imagine two of them working together to string up the classic tripwire trap. Now, imagine those same two (or others) pulling a weighted (and, if you have access to your own Howard Wolowitz, electrified) net over the prone burglar. It’s the most awesome robot version of Home Alone you can imagine.

However, you can’t do any of these things unless you have a robo vacuum to tinker with. So, get one today and let us know what fun, weird, and high-tech hijinks you and your robo pal get up to! Also, if you order before January 20, 2015, you could get your robo vac (and anything else in that order) for free with our DigMyOrder promotion!

Motion Picture Monday: The Art of Cinematography

Cinematography is something that many of us who are fans of various television shows and movies sometimes get a bit curious about. What is it, after all? And how does it differ from photography or regular film editing? Cinematography is the art of making moving pictures and can be counted as a cross-discipline between photography and video technology since it draws from both areas to become its own form of art with a little twist of science.

One thing that cinematographers have to do is work to select a set or location that will be photogenic and will help to convey the sense of depth, mood, and dynamism that the scene they’re filming encompasses. To do this, they generally employ photographers who will go to many different locations and send back images of likely places. For example, for shooting Game of Thrones, the director of photography and the director of cinematography sent photographers to locations such as Iceland, Sweden, Ireland, Greenland, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Russia, Louisiana, and Arizona to try to determine where they would stage particular settings in the fictional world of Westeros. Other movies opted to remain on a particular soundstage or backlot set such as Back to the Future which was filmed almost entirely on the Fox back 40 lot.

Once the location has been chosen, the cinematographer works with the lighting and film crews to make certain that the proper atmosphere is staged. For example, a scene taking place in a dark, chill cave will need very special lighting and effects to be visible and to show the actors’ faces and postures. Just going in there with a camera — even a high-quality movie camera — will not be enough. The cinematographer also works with the set crew to make certain that the set won’t interfere with the camera controllers or the cameras themselves. Sometimes this means that a set has to be overbuilt or have additional access points for cameras and crew so that they can get into position to film different angles.

Once the shooting is over, the cinematographer works with the director to select the best film shots and then oversees the editing process to ensure that quality does not suffer and that the film and the frames move smoothly. He may also work with the sound tracking team to help sync up the actors’ words with the specific frames — especially in cases where the film is being dubbed into another language. Finally, he might work alongside the computer effects division to integrate special effects seamlessly into the film frames for the finished product.

Cinematography involves a lot more than just recording a movie. There is a heavy knowledge base required to be a good cinematographer. One must know a great deal about cameras, lighting, auditory effects (how to make a room sound “live” or “dead”), staging, blocking, and locations. One must also be quick to learn new computer generated effects techniques and how to handle green-screen and even matte backdrops. It is not something that is easily learned just by picking up a video camera but by following our daily blog tips on photography, etc and using the equipment we recommend via links, you could be well on your way.

Wrapping Up the Week

Wrapping Up the Week

The end of another news-filled week in the world of technology has come to a close and this cycle has been a big one for the law and order crowd. With the week ending on news that Amazon and Hachette seemed to have reached an agreement on ebooks, this is a week that has featured the odd march of tech and law from courts telling the FBI that yes, the public does have a right to know about some of their gadgets to the revelation that data collection agencies are using drones to siphon up phone meta data from unsuspecting (and non-suspect) users, this week has been a big one for arguments, debates, and courtroom drama.

All of these stories and more were featured on our Twitter feed this week. However, if you’re not following us on Twitter then we’ll recap the highlights for you below!

That’s all for this week, everyone. Have a great weekend and we’ll see you again next week!

Throwback Thursday: Flight of the Navigator

One of the seminal movies of the 1980s is The Flight of the Navigator. This film has it all — time travel, aliens, adventure, mystery, and drama. I can still remember going to see it in theaters when I was a kid and I can remember going off with my friends to explore any forests nearby in case we could find a spaceship like that one and become navigators ourselves. It also started a long-running session of begging and pleading with our parents to take us to NASA so we could see all of the cool things they had there.

If you’ve never seen it, you should definitely check it out. Even though a lot of the information in the film is dated and many of the effects will seem a little hokey, the story is still excellent and a few of the effects will match anything coming out of computer generated farms today. For instance, the door/stairs that melt and reform, looking like mercury is still great. The way that the stairs hover in mid-air without any sign of support is also very cool, even in this post-Matrix generation.

With the holidays coming up, if you’re looking for a film for the whole family to enjoy that isn’t yet another tired Christmas movie cliche, Flight of the Navigator is the way to go.

Wednesday Recipes: Cookie Edition!

It’s a great time of year for doing some serious baking. However, instead of stressing out over basting, pan-searing, stir-frying, or watching the timer or meat thermometer like some kind of single-minded fiend, try having a bit of fun with some great cookie recipes. Not only are they delicious, they’re fun for everyone to make regardless of age. So, put your heavier dishes to the side for a bit and take a walk on the lighter side with a couple of good cookie recipes to sweeten your meals with a real treat for dessert!

Mary’s Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup granulated sugar for decoration

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg and stir in the vanilla and almond extract. Combine the flour, baking soda and cream of tartar; blend into the creamed mixture. Cover and chill for at least two hours.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Divide the dough into two parts. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece of the dough out to 3/16 inch in thickness. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Place cookies 1 1/2 inches apart onto greased cookie sheets. Sprinkle cookies with plain or colored granulated sugar.

Bake for 8 minutes in the preheated oven, until lightly browned. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Molasses Sugar Cookies

3/4 cup melted shortening
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg, beaten
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

In a medium bowl, blend the shortening, sugar, molasses and egg. Add the baking soda, flour, clove, ginger, cinnamon and salt; mix well.

Form into 1 inch balls and roll in granulated sugar.

Place on cookie sheets 2 inches apart and bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Cool on a flat surface.

Tech Talk Tuesday: 4 Great Travel Tricks

Tech Talk Tuesday: 4 Great Travel Tricks

It’s the time of year when many of us are planning trips back home to visit the family or looking to travel out of town to spend the holidays vacationing. Either way, chances are that our travels will involve flying. These days, airplane travel has graduated from “annoying” to “aggravating” with lost luggage being the biggest headache. However, with a few tips and some careful planning, you can decrease your chances of having your luggage get routed to the wrong airport or of playing the waiting game at the airport carousel.

1) Gadgets can be your friend — You can use RFID tags, LED strings, or even stickers to make your luggage a distinctive and unique. You can even print out some QR codes and use your smartphone’s QR reader app to determine if a bag is yours or not. The more distinctive your luggage looks, the easier it is to spot at a distance.

2) Send your bags ahead by mail — If you don’t feel like dealing with the hassle at the luggage carousel or the chance of the airline misplacing your luggage, you can always opt to send them ahead by mail or delivery service. You can then track them online with a computer, tablet, or smartphone.

3) Take your gadget cables with you — Many airports have places where you can plug in a laptop or a USB charging devices for free. Take a tablet with you so that you can read or let your children watch a show while you’re waiting to board, in flight, or waiting for the luggage.

4) Gadgets make great pacifiers — You might not have the budget to have one tablet for each child but if you have one tablet and you and your spouse each have a smartphone, then that equals three devices you can use to keep your children occupied during the boring parts of the trip. Pre-load some of their favorite films, television shows, or books onto your devices since wireless Internet service while in flight is not always a given.

Flying can be a very frustrating experience. However, with a few simple tips, you can make it much less of a hassle.

Motion Picture Monday: Interstellar

Motion Picture Monday: Interstellar

If there is one genre of storytelling that Hollywood can be almost certain to mess up, it’s hard science fiction. Hard science fiction tells a story where there are some speculative or “not possible with current technology” aspects but where every scientific fact, gadget, gizmo, or venture is grounded in actual real-world science. It’s a very special type of science fiction that differs wildly from things like Star Trek or Star Wars. The dedication to being scientifically accurate even when that means that the usual “gee whiz” tricks of storytelling are forbidden is what sets movies like this apart from other sci-fi flicks like Prometheus, Alien, Event Horizon, and Dark City — some of which claim to be scientifically accurate but only in the sense that pigs really can sprout wings and fly.

However, sometimes Hollywood does get it right. Interstellar is one of those times.

I won’t spoil the story for you because this is one of those rare movies that is more than worth the ticket price. Suffice it to say that the folks behind Interstellar — Christopher and Johan Nolan, Kip Thorne, and Lynda Obst — have created an amazing story while staying within the hard lines drawn by the laws of physics. The characters have to grapple with many difficulties including the real universe effects of time dilation, wormholes, interplanetary travel, different gravities, and the problems that real-world astronauts have to deal with in low or zero gravity environments for very long. There are no magical solutions, no last-minute deus ex machina interventions to spare them from the relentless laws that make the universe work. Instead, like all of us, they have to deal with these laws as they are, not as we wish they could be.

The visual effects are also great. The space imagery for the wormhole, the planets, Gargantua, and the Endeavor space ship are all scientifically accurate as well as gorgeous. The depiction of a massive black hole (Gargantua) and the way it would bend light around it and heat up gases and particles as they accelerated into its event horizon (the outer boundary of a black hole in space) is wonderful and reminds me of the depiction of the same in Doctor Who: The Impossible Planet. When it comes to sound, the score and sound effects are top notch and scenes shot from an outer space point-of-view are silent — just as they would be in real outer space where there is no air to carry the sound waves.

Overall, if you want to go see a great movie with a wonderful story and plausible science and technology, Interstellar is the best one in theaters.